Taking the Mark

When we imbibe the values of the existing world order, we begin to take the "mark of the Beast” - Revelation 13:16-17

666 Photo by Master Wen on Unsplash
Discussions on the “
mark of the Beast” focus on deciphering the significance of its number, ‘666.’ Understandably, we wish to understand it to avoid taking it. But to do so we must recognize the scriptural background behind it, the difference between the “mark” and the “seal of God”, and the identities of the two resultant groups - [666 Photo by Master Wen on Unsplash].

The “mark of the Beast” is the satanic counterpart to the “seal of God,” and in Revelation, the “inhabitants of the earth” give allegiance to the “beast” while the “saints” receive the “seal of God” and follow the “Lamb wherever he goes.”

Humanity falls into two groups – The men and women whose names are written in the “Book of Life,” and those whose names are excluded from it. Whether they receive the “seal of God” or take the “mark of the Beast” determines whether they stand before the “Lamb” in New Jerusalem or are cast into the “lake of fire” - (Revelation 7:9-1720:11-15).
  • (Revelation 13:16-17) - “And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free and the bond, that they should give to them a mark upon their right hand or their forehead, that no one should buy or to sell, except he that has the mark, the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
BACKGROUND. The historical setting of Revelation is the Roman Empire of the late first century. In the province of Asia, the churches were being pressured by local authorities to conform to the expectations of society. One key issue was the imperial cult, the veneration of the emperor and of Roma, the patron goddess of Rome. The pressure to participate in that cult would have been applied to Christian congregations.

Citizens were free to worship their traditional gods. But on public occasions, it was expected that all city residents would offer homage to the image of the emperor, the chief patron and “lord” of the empire. By Roman law, Jews were exempt from this, but once Rome began to view Christianity as a religion distinct from Judaism, it became illegal, and therefore, lost any legal exemptions it may have once enjoyed.
The veneration of the emperor was both a religious and political act. It demonstrated one’s allegiance to Rome. Essentially, to refuse to participate constituted disloyalty to Rome.

That reality is reflected in the Greek verbs applied to acts of “worship” in the book – proskuneō (Strong’s - #G4352) – which occurs approximately twenty-four times. Its literal sense is “to kiss toward,” stemming from the ancient practice of prostration before royal figures. From that sense, derivative meanings include “render homage,” “give obeisance,” “revere,” and “venerate.” It was applied whenever someone showed deference to someone of higher rank.  To “render homage” was to give allegiance. Thus, proskuneō is used for “rendering homage” to the “beast” and its “image.”

INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH. Humanity is divided between the “inhabitants of the earth” and those who “tabernacle in heaven,” the men and women who follow the “Lamb” - (Revelation 13:6-7).

The “inhabitants of the earth” marveled when one of the seven heads of the “beast” received a death stroke but was “healed.” Overawed, they rendered homage to it. And ultimately, they did so because “their names were not written in the book of life of the Lamb.”

The “beast from the earth,” the “false prophet” mimicked the “Lamb” when he appeared. He had “two horns like a lamb” and used religious deception to cause the “inhabitants of the earth” to give allegiance to the first “beast.”

Those who “tabernacled in heaven” were identical with the “saints,” the men and women who “kept the commandments of God and the faithfulness of Jesus,” and the same group against which the “beast made war.” Unlike the “inhabitants of the earth,” their names were “written in the book of life” - (Revelation 3:5, 13:7, 21:27).

The “mark of the Beast” parodies the “seal of God” written on the foreheads of His “servants,” those who “follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” It marked those who belong to the “Lamb” and preserved them through fiery trials. Believers did not avoid tribulation, but their identification with the “Lamb” spared them from God’s judicial “wrath,” the “Second Death” - (Revelation 2:11, 7:1-3, 14:1-5, 20:6).

The “mark of the Beast” identifies all men who belong to it, the “inhabitants of the earth.” Men and women who render homage to the “beast” receive the “mark on their right hand or forehead.” Without it, they are unable to participate in the economic life of society. The “mark” is equated with the “name of the beast” and the “number of his name.” Those who belong to the “Lamb” have “his name and his Father’s name written upon their foreheads” and are found standing with the “Lamb” on Zion. And if the “seal of God” is figurative, so is the “mark of the Beast”- (Revelation 13:11-14:5).

Dollar Map - Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash
Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash

Anyone who renders homage to the “
beast shall drink of the wine of the Wrath of God,” which is the final judicial wrath “prepared unmixed that shall torment all impenitent men with fire and brimstone”; that is, the “lake of fire,” the “second death.” In contrast, all who “keep the faithfulness of Jesus” will stand before the “Lamb” and the “throne” in “New Jerusalem” - (Revelation 7:9-17, 14:9-1115:1-4, 20:11-15).

Whenever the “beast” arrives on the world scene, Christians and non-Christians alike will have to choose whether to bow to it or not. Giving allegiance to it is tantamount to taking its “mark” or “number.” If there is a relevant message for us today, it is as a warning to exercise painstaking discernment before embracing the political and cultural values of the surrounding society.

When we imbibe the ideologies of the existing world order, we begin to take the "mark of the beast." At all times, we must carefully discern to whom we are “rendering homage,” and consequently, whose "mark" we bear.



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